Floods are a typical part of seasonal changes in Australia. As 2010 proved only too well to residents in Queensland, the possibility of entire districts being flooded in a short period of time is a real threat.
If you live in a flood-prone area, it is extremely important that you be prepared for flash floods and widespread flooding, which can develop over several hours and days.
Water and electricity don’t mix. Even light flooding inside the home can be dangerous if water comes in contact with electrical components. Some simple precautions will ensure that you and your family remain safe.
Switch off all electrical sources
Learn how to switch off the electricity for the entire building ahead of time, and share this information with your family. A main circuit breaker or fuse box is usually all you need to switch off. In general, apartment blocks have a breaker box for each apartment. Find out ahead of time where the breaker boxes are located.
Many home owners are investing in ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), which cut off the electricity supply instantly in case of imminent flooding.
Here are some precautions to ensure your safety:
• Make sure that any circuit breakers and fuse boxes are labelled clearly with the areas of the house that they serve.
• Switch off the power, even if your electricity provider has switched off power to your area.
• Never stand in water when turning off electrical switches. If necessary, use a piece of dry wood to flip the switches.
• Never touch electrical components if you are standing in water.
• Use one hand only when switching off breakers or removing fuses, and turn your body away from the box.
• Unplug all appliances and remove them from power outlets.
• Prevent all power cords from getting wet.
• Never step into a room where water has come in contact with electrical cords, switches or appliances.
• Never use electric yard tools in the rain or if the ground is wet.
After a flood
If your home has been flooded, seek the advice of a qualified electrician before switching on any water-damaged appliances. The electrician will also advise you on what can be reused and what should be replaced. All water-damaged electrical motors must be dried out thoroughly, and switched on ONLY if you get the nod from an electrician.
• discard and replace circuit breakers that were submerged in water
• keep away from power lines that have come down and report them to your electricity provider.
Basements are particularly susceptible to flooding. If your home has a basement, take extreme caution before entering after a flood. If you are pumping out water, do not connect it to your home’s power source. Instead, hook up to a gas-powered generator. Make sure all the water has been pumped out before examining the area for potential electrical hazards.